Distractions happen. With so many occurring in the day-to-day, it can be difficult for business owners, marketers, sales people and other staff to focus on, not only daily operations, but specifically website and online marketing efforts. Even the best marketing team can miss important details while multi-tasking, so it’s important that proper guidelines and checklists are created and followed to ensure traffic, leads and sales increase.
This article is intended for marketers with clients, business owners that control their marketing campaigns, or those that employ and SEO consultant. The outline below can be used as guideline to analyze a website and help improve it’s overall performance.
1. Design/Layout/Appearance: Color scheme, font, font size, lack or overload of photos can affect traffic behavior. The only way to know for sure is through A/B and multivariate testing. Just because a change you make yields three more leads in one day does not mean its better. Statistical testing is the only true indicator of certainty. Remove your ego. Unless statistical certainty is reached, it’s just an opinion! Here’s just one of many tests you can perform: http://getdatadriven.com/ab-significance-test. I’ll talk about A/B / Multivariate testing software another time but a quick Google search will give you some of the top tools out there.
2. Simple Navigation. Does the website navigate in an intelligent manner? Is all the information coherent and logical? If you get confused or don't find it to be clear, others probably will too. Give your client your honest impression of the site. You can get user testers (usertesting.com – no affiliation) within the demographic of the client’s target market or in-house personnel, who have not dealt with or seen clients website at all, to give their opinion of the site navigation.
3. Display Phone Number with Large Text. If generating calls is the goal, make sure the client’s phone number is LARGE and PROMINENTLY displayed on each page of the website. This is especially necessary for service industries while ecommerce sites usually just want volume transactions.
4. Content on Product Pages. For shopping carts, individual product pages should have unique content with keywords. It does not have to be more than a small paragraph, but the more the better. Allow for reviews on the product page itself also for user generated content.
5. Call to Action. Ensure the homepage and the entire site has them! Not all customers land on the homepage; some land in internal pages. Those pages need call to actions too! See some examples for ideas here: http://www.convertingcopy.com/60-call-to-action-examples/
6. Unique Selling Proposition (USP) in Homepage. Why buy from your client vs. the competition? (i.e. 150 years in business, no up-front fees, we travel anywhere in the world to you, lifetime guarantee). You can implement a USP in different ways. A rotating banner is good. Keep your banner message short, sweet and simple.
7. On-page Optimization for Individual Pages. Ensure client’s home, services, categories, and product pages have unique on-page Meta tags and H tags. If not, you will lose out on long-tail keyword search terms and traffic. I’ve seen many sites that optimize their product pages or home page but forget to optimize their category pages.
8. Keywords in URLS (Non-Shopping Cart). Keywords included in the URL will help with SEO. If it’s a HTML or CMS site, get those keywords implemented. Don't forget to 301 redirect old pages to new ones, or you can harm the client’s rankings for that page!
9. Keywords in URLS (Shopping Cart). A shopping cart should have a clear URL that includes a keyword (i.e. www.shoppingcart.com/?id=session321-prod vs. www.shoppingcart.com/mens-underwear.html). Which reads better to you? Remember it’s about user experience and is also good for search engines.
10. Contact Form. Is there a contact form on every page? In some cases, it may not be on every page, but it’s an important “call to action” that should be there. In some cases, a different form is used to track a specific conversion, like e-newsletter signups versus lead inquiry. Don’t forget to set up different types of conversions in Analytics to analyze later.
11. Social Media Buttons. Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest and other social media links are good because people who may not be ready to buy yet, or who have already bought, can be marketed to on a different platform if they “like” you or “follow” you. This is great for cross selling and increasing trust. Also, social signals are getting more and more important but everyone knows that, it’s just that some people don’t like doing Social Media (me included).
12. Trust Symbols. They are all important. (i.e. BBB Accredited, Federally Insured, Google Adwords Certified Company). They differentiate the client from competitors, especially if they have a good rating.
13. Social Proof. Show your customers what you’ve done. (i.e. Before and after pictures (old roof / new roof), 1,000 SEO rankings- Click here to see them all!). You can tell me you’re a great roofer but if you have a portfolio of your work, I am more likely to trust you.
14. Testimonials / Videos. Customer video testimonials are powerful. You can purchase a camera (or use your smart phone) and film the videos yourself. If you do mold removal, do a video explaining the process. You can optimize the YouTube videos for the search engines but videos are also great for people to become more familiar with your company.
15. Map Your Location. Include your Google Map (and other map aggregate sites such as Yelp or City Search) on your website to show clients your location. This is especially useful for local shops, restaurants, offices and any other brick and mortar. It helps with Google Places rankings and drives local business. Also, many people want to visit a location to make sure the business is legitimate.
16. Live Chat. This is a good way of getting potential customers to talk to you. Many companies offer this service. One I’ve used is www.livesupport.com(no affiliation) but there are other good ones.
17. Talking Sales Avatar. Sometimes a talking person is helpful and catches a prospect’s attention. It really depends on the circumstance. Some people find it annoying and don’t like it. Do an A/B Test and let math, not your “feeling,” determine whether to use it or not.
18. Captcha. This is needed to slow down bots and decrease SPAM! Ever received those Viagra emails? You can avoid irrelevant, automated inquiries by testing to see whether you’re dealing with a human or bot. Don’t like Capthcha’s? Use a math challenge instead (i.e. 4 + 7 = ?)
19. Guest Checkout. Ensure you have a shopping cart that allows you to check out as a guest instead of creating an account. This leads to decreased abandonment rates in funnels and makes checkout less of a hassle for prospects or for people in a hurry.
20. Lead Manager. Ask your client how they track their leads. Do they have a value assigned to a call lead vs. a form lead for services? There are many good lead managers out there. For shopping carts, you can implement advanced analytics to track revenue on all products.
21. Tracking Conversions in Shopping Carts. Some websites have external sites manage their order placement. In some cases, conversion setup is not possible due to obsolete code or an inability to access code. This is important for a shopping cart because if you can't track conversions in a shopping cart, you don’t know which keywords or referral sources are generating sales.
22. E-Mail Campaign. Include an opt-in form on the client’s website so that prospects or current customers can be the first to know about deals, discounts, news, new products, etc. Set up an auto-responder for captured leads to share more information in the future.
23. Giveaways/Offers. Does the client have a “call to action” to capture the email and name of visitors? Entice them to sign up to newsletter by giving away a free ebook or product.
24. Canonical URL issues. We used to solicit many businesses with this technical issue. I won’t get into too much detail; I’d rather my friend Matt Cutts explain it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cm9onOGTgeM.
25. Site Speed. Nothing is more annoying than a slow site. We want everything faster in this day an age. Ever been on a shopping cart site that was too slow and you just left the site? I have. Many times. Sites built in Magento tend to be slower than other platforms but there are many ways to speed up a site, from changing hosting companies to optimizing website code.
26. Responsive Website. Many times I look at a customer’s analytics and I’ll notice 30-80% of their business comes from mobile devices (iPads, iPhones, Androids, etc). Take, for example, needing a locksmith because you are locked out of your car or house. You’ll probably be using a mobile device. Ensure the site looks good on different devices. The easiest way is to make your site responsive, which adjusts to the customer’s screen size.
27. Blog Away. I see many sites with empty blogs (or no blog at all). Talk to your customers. Educate people. Give away information. Update them on what’s going on in your company. The more the better but be sure to actually add value. It’s not quantity; it’s quality.
28. Pagination. This is something I won’t go too deep into but it causes duplication within websites that can harm rankings. It’s a technical problem that can be fixed but requires someone with experience.
29. Find Broken Links. Find broken links on a website with software’s like Xenu (no affiliation). Fixing a broken link is low-hanging fruit!
30. Multi-Lingual Targeting. Do you want to target Spanish speakers or people in other countries? Well, you need to talk to them in their native language. You basically need to have a fully translated website in the appropriate language either in a folder (internationalrealestate.com/spain/) or subdomain (spain.internationalrealestate.com). Also, don’t forget the nuances of each language. Keywords can vary. The way the British speak English vs. Americans varies. Who spells colour with a “u” anyways?
31. Link to Other Websites. I know many SEO’s warn against external links. You can lose juice; you affect page sculpting (I’ve heard it all). Link to a good or relevant resource. You obviously won’t link to competitors, but focus on content that provides good user experience. Sometimes people need to be referred elsewhere to make a decision or learn something relevant. Don’t over think this. Just focus on user experience when linking out.
32. Install Analytics. In this day and age, you should be monitoring all website metrics. How long do people stay on the website? Where on the website are users leaving? Google Analytics is one of the many free tools out there to help you see website data. Use it!
33. .JSS and .CSS Externalized. This relates to page speed. Using external files help the page load faster because the files are already cached by the browser. This is something to talk to your developer about.
34. Riveting Content. You’re probably rolling your eyes but I am surprised at how many people write useless content. Think Public Relations and write things that are out of the box and creative. For example, acupuncture. A topic that may be written about over and over is about its therapeutic effects. What about writing about acupuncture gone badly with some humor and pictures? You want to capture people’s attention!
35. Interlinking. This is pretty straightforward but most websites don’t do this enough or correctly. You can link a blog post to a service page. You can link an article written on another website to another article written on your blog. Just don’t be spammy and don’t feel forced to do this every time.
36. Think About the Color Blind. I once designed a website that a color-blind owner told me hurt their eyes. If done really wrong, a color blind person won’t be able to see important elements of your website. You can research color-blind friendly websites to ensure your not losing out on potential business.
To this day, there hasn't been a website that I've seen that meets all the above criteria. There is always room for improvement and the above points can be used as an opportunity to open up dialogue on how a website can be improved.
Do you have any other tips or advice? Leave a comment and let me know if I missed something.
Also reach out to me, Will, for consulting or agency work at 786-368-1531.